The Public Employee Unions Fiddle While the Poor and the Needy Starve

Who runs Oregon’s government? The public employees unions. What is the first priority of government? To protect the financial well being of the public employees unions and their members.

That point has been made repeatedly by Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s administration over the past six years but never so pointedly as in his recent discussion of his proposed budget. Kulongoski noted that there would be significant reductions in the health and human services BUT the promised “step increase” for members of the public employees unions would be preserved. (As a reminder, the “step increase” is the annual increase that public employee union members get for just showing up for a year — it is in addition to any wage or cost of living increase).

It’s not like the public employees unions or their members are suffering. The state and local governments write checks to the public employee unions totaling about $60 million each biennium through the payroll deduction program to ensure that there is plenty of money for the unions to spend to elect and re-elect the politicians who run these various levels of government. It is estimated that the public employees unions spent approximately $16 million in the last general election and that does not take into account its internal mailings, “political education” programs, or armies of volunteers for Democrat candidates and liberal causes. First, there were the outlandish payroll increases for Democrat appointees in Kulongoski’s administration (several of whom are former public employee union officials) and the public employee unions. The average increase for executives in the state government was 33% (every state executive office is controlled by Democrats). (In a recent magnanimous gesture Kulongoski rescinded a 3.2% pay raise for agency directors which represents the cost of living adjustment portion of the massive 33% increase noted above.

The average increase for the public employee union members is to be 13-16% (this comes on the heels of two successive raises in the last year — one negotiated and one a gift from Kulongoski). And those raises do not include the handsome and corresponding increases in the cost of healthcare and retirement benefits for those state workers.

It is bad enough that these raises are three to four times higher than corresponding wage increases in the private sector — for those who still have jobs. But we now know that these raises are coming at the expense of those least able to mitigate their effects — the poor, the aged, the chronically ill, the handicapped and the mentally ill. The effects of the reductions in the health and human services areas are reductions in the direct payments to beneficiaries and private agencies providing the care for the beneficiaries while preserving the scheduled salary and benefits increases due to the public employees in those same agencies.

The most stunning part of all of this is that Kulongoski is bold as brass about it. He publicly admits that these cuts to beneficiaries are deeper in order to preserve salary and benefit increases to public employees.

But then what would you expect from an administration dominated by former public employee union officials and a governor who is wholly beholden to those same public employee unions for his election. It will get a lot worse before it gets better — if it ever gets better.

Oregon needs to change its motto from “We Love Dreamers” to “We R Here for U(nion).